14 November 1541 – The inventories of the possessions of Thomas Culpeper and Lady Rochford

By 14th November 1541, things were not looking good for Thomas Culpeper, a member of the king’s privy chamber and a man who Francis Dereham, secretary to Queen Catherine Howard, had claimed “had succeeded him in the Queen’s affections”. It was on this day that an inventory was taken “of the goods and chattels, lands and fees of Thos. Culpeper, the younger”.

The inventory included his possessions “At the King’s palace of Westminster” which included “two caps of velvet (described) that the King gave him” along with other items of clothing and “some swords, daggers, and sundries”; his horses, harnesses for the horses and furniture “at various places”; “Debts and ready money owing to him”; revenues from his lands, which included several manors and a former monastery in Kent; his various offices (the king had been generous with these); his possessions in his house at Greenwich; and his furniture, hangings and possessions “within the great loge at Southfryth of Master Culpepper”.

An inventory had also been taken of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford’s possessions by this time:

“List of plate (7 items), apparel (11 items, one “a little steel casket with a purse and forty pounds in it”), and jewels (8 items, viz., “a broach with an ag[ate], a cross of diamo[nds] with three pearls pendant, a flower of rubies, a flower with a ruby and a great emerald with a pearl pen[dent], a tablet of gold with black, green, and white enamelled, a pair of bracelets of red cornelyns, a pair of beads of gold and stones, a broach of gold with an antique head and a white face.”
Pp. 2. Endd.: Plate, apparel, and jewels that were the lady of Rochford’s.”

Jennifer Rowley-Williams has given a full list of the plate and apparel, based on P.R.O. S.P. 1/167/163-163v:

A payre of flagones of sylver wherof one lacketh a stople
A salt of sylver and gilt wt owt a cover
A newer of stone wowt a cover wt a hope of sylver and gilt
An nother newer of stone wt cover hope and fote of sylver
a bason and an Ewer of sylver parcel gilt
A litle tase of sylver
A Casting botle of sylver and gilte
A litle crewes of sylver [this item seems to have been deleted]”

A kirtel of black velvet
A kirtle of black saten
A nyght gowne of black taffeta
A gown of black damaske
A gown of black saten
iij fayre bordures of my ladyes of goldsmithes work black enameled
xviij fayre perles
A fayre broche black enamelled wt six small diamondes
A litle stele casket wt a purse and forty pounds in it
v perles and certyn peces of broken gold in a box
xi small perles”

It is interesting to note all the items of clothing listed in this inventory are black. Was Jane wearing black to demonstrate her wealth and status, or was she still wearing mourning attire following her husband George Boleyn’s execution in 1536? We just don’t know.

Thomas Culpeper was found guilty of “high treason against the Kinges Majestie in mysdemeanor with the Quene”, along with Francis Dereham at a trial at Guildhall, London, on 1st December 1541. Both men were condemned to death and executed at Tyburn on 10th December 1541; Culpeper was beheaded and Dereham suffered a full traitor’s death. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was beheaded along with her mistress, Queen Catherine Howard, at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542.

Notes and Sources

Picture: Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpeper and Joanne King as Jane Boleyn in “The Tudors” series. Unfortunately, we do not have portraits of Culpeper or Jane.

  • Marillac, the French ambassador, recorded that Dereham “to show his innocence since the marriage, said that Colpepre had succeeded him in the Queen’s affections”, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1366.
  • You can read the full inventory of Thomas Culpeper’s possession in the online version of Letters and Papers, document 1343. Jane Boleyn’s is document 1340.
  • “Image and Reality: The Lives of Aristocratic Women in Early Tudor England”, A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Wales, Bangor, 1998 by Jennifer Rowley Williams, p. 298, 299. Rowley-Williams quotes from P.R.O. S.P. 1/167/163-163v. The thesis can be read at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/29187693.pdf.
  • Cherry, Clare and Ridgway, Claire (2014) George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, Chapter 24: Aftermath, MadeGlobal Publishing. It is also noted here that George Cavendish, Cardinal Wolsey’s gentleman usher, referred to Jane as “a wydowe in blake full woo begon” in his verses.
  • Fox, Julia (2009) Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford, W&N.

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13 thoughts on “14 November 1541 – The inventories of the possessions of Thomas Culpeper and Lady Rochford”
    1. Wonder if she helped Catherine with Thomas as a sort of revenge to H8 for the demise of her husband? Just a thought…

  1. Is there any known reason why Culpeper was beheaded but Dereham suffered the worse fate of a traitors death?

    Obviously we cannot take it for fact but I know in The Tudors that King Henry states it’s because Dereham “spoiled the Queen for him” but is this the actual historical reason for it, was there another reason, or do we simply not know?

    1. Dereham was lower on the social scale than was Culpeper. Also, Henry knew — and at one time liked — Culpeper. Treason sentences for men who were at least knighted, or Henry once liked them, or both were routinely commuted to beheading (Thomas More and four of the five men beheaded with Anne Boleyn). Men lower in the social scale (like Mark Smeaton) usually did not get their sentences commuted — that Mark was not hung, drawn and quartered (IMO) was his “reward” for confessing (and it might explain why he never withdrew the confession). This is one reason why Cromwell’s letter asks for mercy … not to save his life, but to save him the death that he would otherwise get since he lost his social status.

  2. Lady Rochester was in my mind the reason for all this. Henry was not able to do much in bed . Had the Queen got pregnant and had a son , life for all would have been a bed of roses.
    She encouraged the affair, was it to get back at Henry or just for power she would have got on his death.it

    1. Why do you believe that Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was the reason for all this and how did she encourage the affair? I haven’t seen any evidence for this so am curious about your view.

  3. I am curious as to what the state aka King Henry did with the dresses and kirtles of two women. Obviously his wife was given the dresses by the King, but does he store them or give them to the next one or what? I mean clothes were expensive, they came in different parts, they would be of good quality, have lace, velvet and may have jewellery on them, so you can see why they were included. Many dresses had cloth of gold and silver thread in them which made them very rich indeed. Men’s caps were often velvet, had featured jewellery and of course all things are handmade. The Queen had given one or two of these caps to Thomas Culpepper.

    It was normal to list these goods in case a trial was held and the accused condemned but it was actually illegal to seize goods by the crown unless someone was attained for treason. However, listing meant things did not bode well.

    Lady Jane had been accused by both Katherine and Culpepper of helping Katherine and she would later blame them. It is difficult to say if it was her idea or not because the evidence comes from both confessions and the document which made the official indictments. It was alleged in those official documents that Jane went to great lengths to find places for Katherine to meet with Culpepper, searching out a place presumably that was secret and safe, that she escorted them and waited a little distance from them but did she suggest and encourage this affair? It is not very clear.

    Did Jane suggest that maybe Thomas Culpepper fancied her and Katherine say she wanted to meet him? The evidence does not make this clear, but Jane certainly brought Culpepper to the young Queen. It has to be said that if this wasn’t Jane’s idea, then Katherine put her first great lady in a very difficult situation, for it was her duty to both advise against such actions and also to obey the Queen. If Katherine could be difficult and insisted, then what did one do, refuse? Jane should certainly have done so, but if it was her idea, then it is very baffling as she was an experienced woman with many years in royal service. She knew better and her duty was to discourage any inappropriate behaviour, not to indulge it or find places for Katherine and Thomas to meet.

    We have three different versions of events and with everyone accusing everyone else it was not easy to get at the truth and historians have often misinterpreted the role of Lady Rochford. I am not convinced that any of this was her idea, but she did act as a chaperone, howbeit a chaperone who gave her charge a lot of privacy in her meetings with Culpepper. Katherine had these meetings so late that Jane even fell asleep. The testimony of other ladies show that they went on until the small hours of the morning because they woke up and saw the Queen wasn’t in bed. It’s no wonder that everyone thought adultery had taken place, even if the Queen and Culpepper didn’t admit to it as such, because it is not the norm to talk with a man in your room late at night as a Queen and both admitted that they would go further. I think the question of Lady Jane Rochford as the person who encouraged or took the lead in this matter is actually an unanswerable question.

    1. Hi Bq yes it is very difficult as they all started blaming one another, if Lady Rochford was the one who encouraged the affair than it was extremely foolish of her having her sister in laws sad fate as an example, in books and films they portray Jane as actively encouraging Catherine yet as you mention, she was a mature woman with court experience why should she risk her own position and life to assist the queen in what was sheer folly? It doesn’t make sense as no woman I feel would be that stupid, Catherine on the other hand was known to be imperious and had no knowledge of queenship, and she was also young and without wisdom, youth and wisdom do not go hand in hand, possibly power went to her head and she thought I can do what I like, she could not however but I can see her babbling excitedly to Jane about meeting with the handsome Culpeper who was quite possibly a bit of a rogue and ladies man, yes she did fall asleep at one of the meetings, and to be honest if that was me I’d find it a right pain, walking on tip toe in the middle of the night trying to find a hidey hole for an errant mistress, I know where I’d rather be, snug in my bed, if Jane was merely obeying Catherine’s orders her first duty was to have gone straight to the King and divulge his wife’s activities yet I can see her possibly sympathising with her young mistress and thinking if their both very discreet they won’t be caught, but as the saying gos, ‘give a man enough rope and he will hang himself’, had not Mary Lascelles mentioned Catherine’s past to her brother then no investigation would have occurred yet she did so and wether innocently or not lit the powder keg that was to be Catherine’s undoing, frantic with worry Catherine said it was Jane who had encouraged the meetings, she was trying to exonerate herself as people do when they are in grave danger but as we would say today, we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions and by pointing the finger at Jane did nothing to help her, Culpeper also blamed Jane yet had he not wanted to meet with the queen and found the situation intolerable he could have refused to do so, saying it was not possible he was with the King that night, etc any excuse he could have used, I too find it odd that any woman with her experience of the kings anger, (she had been in the tower once before after conspiring with her sister in law to get rid of his latest squeeze), and she had seen her husband’s family fall with the deaths of both Anne Boleyn and her husband, yet she had risen above this tragedy and was soon back at court in the service of Jane Seymour and later with Anne of Cleves, why risk her good fortune? she had witnessed his terrible anger and the way he dealt with his enemies therefore I too find it difficult to believe that she went willingly along with Catherines meetings with Culpeper, if anything I like to believe she tried to advise her not to, whatever the truth Jane paid with her life and joined her tragic husband and sister in law along with Catherine also, she was beheaded on the same day, I wonder what the headsman thought, here he was killing two women, one little more than a teenager, only in Henrys England would a queen be executed along with her maid.

      1. Hello Christine, everything you say is spot on. Every film the conversation goes something like this

        “Methinks Your Majesty is taken with that young man.”

        ” Which young man? ”

        “You know, the one the King sends over every day with some gift or other. He is certainly keen on you, my lady.”

        ” Oh you think so. He is kinda dishy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him for a few minutes but it’s too risky. ”

        “I could arrange a meeting in my rooms if it would please Your Majesty. I could bring him to you there tonight or tomorrow after the King is asleep.”

        ” Yes, set it up. I will see him tomorrow night after my husband is asleep. He retires earlier these days. I am left alone. Some company would be nice. ”

        ” I will arrange it and send Margaret or Isabella to bring him to you. Remember you must be discreet, you are the Queen. ”

        A second meeting may be arranged.

        “I want to see him again.”

        ” Who? ”

        “You know who. Bring him to me tonight.”

        ” But Your Majesty , it is too risky and you may be seen. ”

        “Do as I command. I want to see him!!!”

        ” Yes, Your Majesty ”

        In The Private Life of Henry Viii Lady Jane was in league with the Duke of Norfolk and she plots the whole thing to get a Howard Tudor heir. As you say why would an experienced woman risk her life and reputation unless for some reason she felt sorry for Katherine or was being heavily influenced by her as her Queen? She should have gone to the Chamberlain or someone who could stop it, before going to the King as Katherine would be in trouble if it was reported to him. Just why or if Jane Rochford went along with all this, except out of duty or fear or misguided loyalty is beyond me. She must have been in a really difficult situation. Katherine could be quite demanding and make threats if she wanted to. The other thing which makes it more likely that Katherine made the suggestion is that she had a brief relationship with him before her marriage as lady in waiting with Anne of Cleves. That ended before or when the King came courting so maybe she was hoping for a friendship but still had feelings for Culpepper. Henry left his wife alone for several weeks. She was immature enough to be bored even if she wasn’t the ninny of fiction.

        On a lighter note, ever since I read about the kirtles and dresses I have had a vision of Henry wearing his wife’s clothes. Weird or what?

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